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October 11, 2006


Anthony D'Amato

This is a great initiative! But it seems to me that your policy statement may have a repellent effect. Do you really need to “strictly monitor” all comments under a “zero-tolerance” standard”? Why must you have unreviewable “discretion”? Are you worried about comments that are not “worded in a respectful” fashion or fail to “address the substance” of the post to which they are responding? Do you think you will be flooded with posts that contain “harrassing or abusive language” or “personal invective in the place of argument”?

Ideas at the cutting edge of any discipline are apt to be playful, suggestive, unpolished. I would like your initiative to succeed, but please forgive me for suggesting that front-loading it with imagined evils can convey a message of censorship.

Mark Spottswood

[Editorial Response]

Professor D'Amato,

Thanks for taking the time to comment on our comments policy. We are certainly aware of the concerns you raise. I can give you my firm assurance that we will not delete any comments solely because they are "playful, suggestive, [or] unpolished." At the same time, we do feel that there is a hazard posed by allowing totally unmoderated comments. Thus, we require pre-appproval as a means to prevent really nasty people from corrupting the tone and content of our site.

Now, that being said, I'd like to assure you that we have no intention of restricting free discussion, as long as it stays within a broad zone of scholarly discourse. Indeed, we will apply a presumption in favor of publishing all comments. But, in order to maintain control of the tone of the site, it is necessary for us to have ultimate authority regarding the application of our policy. What you describe as "imagined evils" are common examples of abusive behavior observed in the comments threads of numerous legal blogs.

If you have any specific suggestions for amendments to our policy, please do let me know. We are more than willing to reconsider any rules that the public believes are unnecessarily restrictive.

Mark Spottswood
Colloquy Editor

Paul Danielson

I would second Professor D'Amato's concerns of censorship, but moreso regarding the requirement that comments be worded in "scholarly" fashion. As someone who was not offered a position on Law Review, I fear my wording of anything, comments or otherwise, may not meet whatever lofty standard is represented by your interpretation of the term "scholarly." Perhaps an easier standard of "articulate" would be more appropriate so that the lower caste of students may participate as well.

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